“Reggaeton. Heavy on the Reggaeton tonight.”

It was the last thing I wanted to hear.

I was only halfway through my residency when I had run through all of the Latino music I had prepared. Every last bit of it.  Day by day I watched anxiously as my un-played Reggaeton list shrank. And now the entertainment manager, my boss, had asked for even more of it.

She was laid-back, very much an island personality. I didn’t even speak to her until the day I arrived. But she had given her first bit of feedback, underscored by the preceding days of silence.

I had an especially large crowd that night. The lasers were flashing, the haze machines were cranking, the girls were prancing around in their snug dresses, the dance team pumping up the crowd.

Randomly I spotted a clipboard in the corner. Boom, my salvation. I grabbed a pen and passed each through the glass opening, the gateway between the DJ booth and the world beyond. I wrote in large block letters “REQUESTS”. What better way to find more Spanish music than by going directly to the source? Hands instantly reached out to make their mark on the night beyond.

The clipboard was a big lift as verbal requests were impossible. My DJ booth was locked away behind a six inch opening and with me were a pair of dual 18” subs. These bass cannons destroyed any chance of communication each time they fired, nevermind the varying accents I had struggled to decipher as folks yelled their requests. No, the easiest form of communication was to instead decipher the questionable legibility of intoxicated hands of my fellow vacationers.

And it worked like a charm. In addition to a full request list I had made a new friend who. He was a club enthusiast from Argentina who had been enjoying my music all week. More importantly he was plugged into the South American music scene and emailed me a list of over forty Reggaeton staples. You better believe that business card I handed him was well worth the price of admission. (Get on that folks!)

Between my new Argentinian friend and request clipboard I would have enough tunes for the remainder of my stay.

That being said, what else did I do to ensure my music was fresh each night?

Setlist Strategies: Digging Deep for Freshness

  1. Prep at least triple the music you need for each set. 
    • We all know to do this, but it’s so crucial it’s worth stressing. The more relevant music you have ready on hand the more fluid your sets will be. Think of all the things that you look for in reading a room: that crowd, that moment, that venue. Then think of the elements to go into a great transition: Vibe, Tempo, Energy. Imagine having 5 songs to choose versus having 50 songs. What do you think will be more effective? What do you think will be better mixed? Do your homework, it’s worth it. 
  2. Dig deeply into your library for the gems you’ve forgotten about. 
    • Even if you’ve been DJing for a few months you’ve got them, moreso if you have years under your belt.
  3. Sort by ‘Last played’ and scan your library in reverse order. 
    • Chances are you have tracks that aren’t tagged correctly so take this as an opportunity to fix those gems as you add them to your ongoing setlist.
  4. Get a sense of the clientele at the resort
    • Walk around during the day and introduce yourself, see what the guests are into. “Hey I’m the resort’s DJ for the week, is there anything in particular you want to hear later?” 
    • Ask the staff, what kind of people predominantly stay at the resort? What age groups? What countries? What music typically works here? What events/days/locations typically have what vibes?
  5. Keep track of songs played each night in a master playlist. 
    • In Traktor you can make this playlist your ‘Prep list’ which will then flag all played tracks with a diamond. At the end of each night add all songs under ‘History’ for easy tracking.

In the next article we dive into what it was like to DJ crazy beach & foam parties, and the curve balls thrown my way like getting electrocuted!